Two years ago my good friend, Rob Canavan, and I decided we were going to explore an area in Northern Norway which to date had been largely unexplored by shore fishermen. After much planning we set off to try out the areas in and around Harstad and Narvik. Our main target was the mighty halibut and fishing the piers and jettys in the towns we found some very good success with fish up to 56lb, but, our main problem was that these areas were very busy. Constant ships and lots of building works meant our trips were noisy and often disrupted and far from relaxing.
So, we looked for an alternative area away from the hustle and bustle and decided to explore the islands of Rolla and Andorja. Rolla is a short ferry ride from Harstad and Andorja is connected to Rolla by a tunnel. With easy access to marks and virtually no traffic on the islands it was a perfect place for fishing with lots of places to try out. It also had the added bonus of having lots of places to go when the wind blows from any direction. After fishing here a few times we have discovered a wide variety of marks all within a 30 minute drive which meant no more late night long drives!
Earlier this month we had a trip out to Rolla to further explore our marks and try out a few new ones as well. Rob and friend Michael Culver went out two days before me and set about catching some fish.
After arriving late the night before, Rob and Michael organised their gear and set off early afternoon to target some halibut from a proven mark in Hamnvik. When targeting halibut we often use fresh coalfish fillets as bait but, the coalfish were very scarce and difficult to catch so the lads used herring heads and fillets instead. They were soon into some fish with a stream of codling and the odd cod. Rob had the best cod at 12lb 6oz falling to a herring head. After finally managing to catch a few coalfish the fillets went on and it wasn’t long before Rob had his first halibut, a lively fish at 16lb 2oz. The fresh bait sure made the difference!
Rob slipped the fish back into the water and soon after had another run but this time the fish spat the hook. You have to expect a few missed runs with halibut unfortunately.
High water came and went and the fishing slowed down so the lads decided to pack up and go exploring with the spinning rods. Trying various metal lures and savage gear sand eels they managed to catch a few codling but nothing of any great size. They decided to call it a day and get a good night sleep ready for the early start next day.
Rob and Michael set off to fish a mark on Andorja called ‘Stone Pier’. This is a really comfortable mark to fish with clean sandy ground all along it and around 15M deep.
Once again the coalfish were scarce so once again it was down to using alternative baits. They used frozen prawn, mackerel and herring here and managed to find lots of cod and codling. Using pulley pennels and 6/0 hooks it was a fish a cast non stop for 3 hours although none of the cod were massive. Light winds and broken sunshine made it very pleasant fishing for the lads. After high water the coalfish turned up and they managed to get a bucket load for bait.Hopes were high that the halibut were going to play ball but it was just a few codling after that so they called it a day.
Whilst I was making my way over to join the lads they were busy trying another mark in Hamnvik called ‘Shipwreck’, fishing into a nice current and depths of 30M. Hopes were high for a few nice fish but, unfortunately the rods were motionless all day with only a couple of small codling coming to the lures. There was a lot of melting snow and freshwater entering the sea at Hamnvik and I can only think this dampened the fishing here. The boys moved round to Breivol but fishing here was also dead. Just one of those days, and boy do you know about those days when they hit in Norway, it just goes barren!
This is the day when things finally hotted up, and not in the way that had been causing the thaw! We headed to a new mark at Sorvika. The intention was to fish the pier there, an old landing jetty, which has been well preserved. Once there it was apparent this pier was only suitable for 2 people to fish as there were overhead power cables running up the pier leaving only the very end viable. We caught some coalfish here though and walked back to the car. To our left there was a nice rocky headland so we decided to see if we could get on to it. with a bit of care we clambered up and five minutes later were on a nice flat ledge. Perfect! The charts suggested we would be fishing in 15-25M of sandy bottom clean ground so we tackled up and cast out. The free and ready availability of detailed nautical charts in Norway certainly helps when exploring new areas.
Rob was targeting halibut, so out went his coalfish fillets and he set his drag on his reels. Michael and I were targeting plaice and dabs using ragworm and black lug. As it turned out, Rob was the first to strike when his reel started screaming and line came off at a rapid pace! After a 10 minute battle we had a healthy 31lb Halibut on the rocks. They really start to deliver a great fight once they hit the 30lb mark.
It wasn’t long after taking photos of his halibut that Rob’s other reel started to strip line and he was into another big fish. This one was slightly bigger and took him into a few ledges and after patiently letting the fish have a bit of give he managed to get it over the ledge and in close where we saw it was another halibut. It had one last bolt for freedom and took him back into the closest ledge. Once again with patience and control Rob skilfully managed to guide it in for me to land. This was a lovely looking halibut and weighed in at 39lb. When un-hooking we noticed the weight had gone thus proving rotten bottoms work for marks with ledges!
Whilst Rob was re-baiting and sorting out his gear I took the spinning rod and walked a few yards down to the left to see if I could get some more coalfish. They were proving the deadliest bait by far. Casting out a small dexter wedge I soon hooked into a nice fish and it wasn’t long before I had a 10lb Cod on the bank. Great scrap on light gear, though not the bait I was looking for!
Back to the baited rods, Michael was catching a few dabs and then I had a slow pulldown which resulted in a nice plaice of 4lb 8oz. Target species achieved!.
After that the cod came on the feed with Rob getting one at 15lb and later on I manged one at 14lb 2oz and Michael was catching a lot of smaller codling on his ragworm bated rigs. A great session and the mark proving to be a success.
We decided to try a pier on Andorja known as ‘scrapyard pier’ but when we got there the wind was in the wrong direction and after a couple of fruitless hours we moved back to the rock mark we fished the previous day. The fishing was a lot slower than the day before with just a few codling to show for our efforts. Rob was again targeting halibut but I had switched my attention to targeting plaice and possibly a wolf fish. The locals tell me there are lots of wolf fish around Andorja so I baited up with a long length of Ragworm on a pennel rig. After a few hours trying I got a slow pull down and my first thoughts were a plaice. Once it got closer I realised it was bigger but it wasn’t really fighting. It came in pretty easily and once Rob had netted it I had a lovely 10lb Wolf fish at my feet and again target achieved!
Rob had a cracking run late on but whatever it was it chomped through his 80lb hooklength! We called it a day and went back for a well earned chilli and rice.
The weather had turned and was a bit wet and windy so we decided to try the Stone Pier again. Fishing was extremely tough with just a couple of coalfish for our efforts. I did get a cracking bite but wasn’t concentrating so missed out! We ended up packing up early as we had a very early flight to catch the next day. We did go on a little drive about and found some very good lugworm digging areas plus a few more jetties which we will explore next time. We cleaned all our gear and packed everything away. With all the facilities we could need at the house and in such a good location we really do have everything we need here on Rolla.
We took the long drive round to Harstad/Evenes airport taking about 2 hours. You can fly into Bardufoss airport instead and the drive is shorter at 1 hour 20 minutes. We flew Norweigan air and had no issues either way.
The myth of Norway being the land of plenty and only dipping a bait in the water is good enough to land the fish of a lifetime is a nice one, but a myth is all it is, wholly unrealistic. The truth is that it can be hard work, but when it pays off, the rewards are great. There’s just so much to explore too, and whilst we now know a good number of productive marks in this area, we can’t wait to explore even more.